For once, a do everything camera that combines high image quality with ultimate flexibility.

Advisory for newcomers to the blog:  This is not a review. This is an article which talks about bridge cameras and specifically the Fuji camera. It exists because the product being highlighted might be of interest to my long term readers. There are no charts or graphs. There are no "conclusions."  I like the idea of the camera. That's all that really matters here on this blog.

With all the attention that's been focused on FujiFilm cameras like the X-100, the S Pro 1, and the X-10 there's one product that hasn't gotten anywhere near the attention I think it deserves. Maybe that's because it resides near the top of a category that many of us serious photographers have more or less written off, long zoom lens "bridge cameras."  Just calling the category bridge cameras seems to demean the value of the niche in the minds of those of us who crave ultimate machines like Leica M9s and Nikon D800s.

While most previous bridge cameras look like miniaturized DSLRs and come with long range zooms they've mostly been plagued with tiny sensors that were overpopulated with tiny little pixels.  If you shot them at their base ISOs they would yield fairly good files but once you started to crank up the gain (increase the sensitivity) they files quickly fell apart.

There are some good, current cameras in this class, like the Canon SX-40.  Panasonic has a couple as does Nikon. Most use the same smaller sensor sizes (1/1.7) and nearly all of them feature fairly big swivel screens on the back and okay to good EVFs.  One of the early favorites of mine, a camera that pretty much busted out the category, was the Sony R1. It had a wildly good Carl Zeiss zoom lens that gave you 24-120mm equivalent angle of view performance and it had a sensor that was just about APS-C size. Many times bigger than most of the other cameras. But the R1 came at a cost that most wouldn't pay for a camera with a non-removable lens, and the early EVF was coarse and slow.

The camera I handled today the FujiFilm x-S1, is the first bridge camera since the Sony R1 (2005) that made me go, "Wow!"  First, let me show you the camera and then I'll tell you why.

The camera is wonderful to hold in your hands. It's beefy and much heavier than its competitors. Whatever coating they used over the exterior of the body I think is just the right blend of sticky-I-can-hold-on-to-this and comfortable. It's not much smaller (if it actually is smaller) than a Canon Rebel or a Nikon D3200. The thing that grabbed me upon picking it up was the heft and the feeling that it was wonderfully solid. And very well built. (love the metal knob that just begs for your right hand thumb to caress it...).

But here's the deal, you get a camera with the same sensor they've put into the wildly successful X-10. It's a 2/3 ich EXR CMOS sensor that does the same tricks as it does in the X-10.  You get 12 megapixels which means every pixel is bigger and better defined and this very good sensor performance is combined with a 24 to 624mm zoom lens that starts at f2.8 and finishes up at the long end at f5.6

I didn't get to spend a long time with the camera but I did go through the menus and try out the focusing and the EVF. The EVF is a 1.44 million dot LCD monitor which looks very similar to the EVF image and imaging performance in the EVF of Sony's a57 DSLT camera. The refresh is fast enough to have made me unaware of tearing or blurring when I moved the camera while framing.

The screen on the rear of the camera is 3 inches with 460,000 dots. The camera can shoot at highest priority at 10 fps (short burst) but only in medium and small file sizes. If you need a full res file you can still get 7 fps. Of course the camera also has RAW file capability and RAW+Jpeg file capture. In fact, it has just about anything I would look for in a full bore, higher end DSLR or DSLT including Fuji's film emulation modes.

It may also be an efficient video production camera for web destined videos. It shoots in the H.264 (MOV) format and offers resolutions up to 1920 by 1080.  And yes, there is a standard plug in for external, stereo microphones.

This camera and lens weigh almost twice as much as my Nex 7 with its kit lens so if you are trying to lighten the load you may be looking in the wrong place but you have to consider the tremendous range of lenses you get over the range of the zoom. Early reviewers have praised the lens, with the same caveat that it is better at the wider to mid ranges than at the extreme telephoto end. The only critical issues I've heard relate to slow focus under lower light and some difficulty locking focus at the very long end of the zoom.

So, who is this camera perfect for? Anyone planning a round the world trip with  the need for flexible and high quality imaging and video capability. If I had a ticket for year's unrestricted travel I'd snap one of these up so fast it would make my own head spin. Then I'd buy four or five more batteries and a case of class 10 SD cards and grab my passport.  It would also be a perfect tool for the in-house web designer who needs to be able to capture good video and still photos under lots of different conditions with lot of flexibility.

Like most cameras that are too feature-rich you'll need to spend some quality time with the manual in one hand and the camera in the other but from what I've seen in sample images it might just reward you in a way that will surprise photographers who've long dismissed this category.

The camera generally sells at a street price of $799 but Amazon has it listed these days for $599.95 which I think is an absolute bargain. But then I like the idea of Swiss Army Knife cameras like this. They are so closed loop that they free you from so much excess decision making and that can be really good when you are out and around and working the shutter release in response to the world in front of you.

Sadly, this one will probably get lost in all the noise and introductions at the upcoming Photokina and that's too bad because it may be just what so many people who are moving up from compacts and phones are looking for.  Ditto for people tired of the lens rat race and the constant upgrade cycle. Oh well. Good to read some of the reviews, handle one, and see what you think.

Cheap Adapter to use Sony Alpha lenses on a Sony Nex 7. It works.

Web pundits besmirch the Sony Nex 7 for its paucity of lenses. Maybe yes, if you want to use only lenses specifically designed just for the Nex system. Positively no, if you are open to spending less than $30 on an adapter and opening yourself up to all the lenses that are currently available for the Sony DSLT cameras. In the image above you see the Sony Nex 7 camera body, the Fotodiox AF-NEX adapter and the inexpensive, but highly capable, Sony DT 30mm Macro lens. The assemblage is easy to work with and delivers really good performance.

Unlike the two Sony branded adapters that are available to do the same task, the Fotodiox adapter doesn't give you any electronic connection between the lens and the camera body, only a mechanical one. The adapter controls the aperture with the ring labelled "lock" and "open."  The ring moves a peg in the adapter which in turn stops down the aperture in the lens. It works totally by guess-timation. There is no readout anywhere of the aperture value.

When the adapter ring is set to open you are shooting with a wide open aperture. When you go to the "locked" position you are shooting at the smallest aperture. And you get to choose an infinite range in between.  You can do it by assessing how much depth of field you need, visually, on the EVF or LCD finder or you can look at the front of the lens and try to make each small increment reduce the circle created by the aperture blades by half to stop down one stop.  Not the right adapter for control freaks who need to see an aperture read out and to know exactly what aperture they are shooting at...

Focusing is more elegant. Set the camera to use focus peaking, grab the small rubberized ring at the front of the lens and------focus. In my camera I have the focus peaking indicator set to strong and red. When the red splotches invade the area I want to have in focus I'm done focusing and it works well as long as there is detail to focus upon.

While I'm happy with the few Nex lenses I have I'm even happier to be able to tap into the entire collection of lenses I've picked up for my a77 cameras.  The 30 macro is a good, cheap macro and I like using that focal length with the cropped sensor. While the camera doesn't auto correct for distortion (not much in there to correct) or CA or vignetting the lens performs well and the camera, in aperture priority seem to hit exposures correctly as well.

There are certain lenses I am hesitant to use on the smaller camera. For instance, I can't see that it makes a lot of sense to mount the five hundred pound Sony 70-200mm 2.8 G lens on the camera. They see to be at philosophical cross purposes.  Same with the big 16-50mm 2.8 zoom.  But with a petite collection of primes the combination really comes into its own. I use the adapter with the 30mm, 35mm, 50mm 1.4 and 50mm 1.8 and the 85mm 2.8. Owning both the a77/Alpha systems and a barebones Nex system is fun now that they're unidirectionally compatible.  But other than the macro or lenses like the 35mm and 85mm which are not single focal lengths provided by the Nex system I really don't think it's a vital tool. 

The Nex cameras excel at being small and discreet---especially with the kit lens installed. The a77 is right at home with big lenses and professional camera performance. It's nice though that they can exist in the same equipment drawer and the addition of the Alpha to Nex adapter makes the Nex 7 a nice back up companion to any Sony APS-C primary system.

The two images above were made with one of my favorite "adapted" combinations. The taking body was a Sony a77 while the lens was the 120mm Hasselblad/Zeiss Makro Planar lens. The couple were joined together with yet another inexpensive Fotodiox lens adapter.  Using the Zeiss medium format lenses on the a77 camera is like coming home again.  Just make sure you use the stop down switch on the Hblad lens or you'll be shooting everything wide open.

This is a quick sample of the 30mm Macro Alpha lens on the Nex-7

If you already own the Sony DSLT system the 30mm macro, on an adapter, is the perfect way to add close-up capabilities on the cheap...

If budget is no object you could snap up either of the adapters from Sony.  The barebones item is the LAEA-1 which is a tube with electronic connections that give control and display power over aperture.  It does provide for autofocus but from everyone I've heard from who's used them the focusing is very slow and doesn't not work with older, screwdriver drive AF lenses.

The LAEA-2 is a bigger adapter and comes with a pellicle mirror and a module that allows for fast phase detection focus when using most of the Sony DSLT lenses.  In the end, whether you need to adapt other lenses to the Nex system in the first place is something you'll have to consider based on how you use or intend to use your Nex 7. Next on my order list is an inexpensive adapter that will allow me to use Leica M series lenses on the same, Nex 7 camera.

Having fun doing it "wrong."